Digital Commonwealth Conference 2018

I was delighted to be a presenter at the Digital Commonwealth conference for 2018 (taking place today: I’m waiting for the next session as I type.)

I presented on accessibility (focusing on online materials, rather than physical access, because of the nature of Digital Commonwealth). My notes and explanation are online, with plenty of links to further resources.

CopyrightX and this librarian

I just completed the CopyrightX course and that means it’s time for me to write up my thoughts about it, and specifically whether I recommend it to other librarians.

Short version: If you’re deeply interested in learning more about the foundations of copyright (both theories and key cases and decisions), and are willing to invest the kind of time and mental energy you’d expect of a law school class, I highly recommend considering it.

If you’re not sure about it, or are only interested in specific parts, the lectures (with transcripts) and readings and supporting material are available for free online, and they’re great. The part you get by being accepted to the course are the sectional discussions and ability to take the exam (and get a certificate).

Many more details follow.

Continue reading CopyrightX and this librarian

So you want to be a librarian?

This week has brought several questions from people who maybe want to be librarians into my life, so it seems about time for another round of my advice for people considering the field. I’m mostly going to be talking here about people who are interested in MLIS requiring positions in libraries (including special libraries) but I’ll touch on other roles in libraries as well.

My advice is also US centric: I gather much of it is also true in Canada. While I think the general ideas apply other places, the specifics might not, so research your own location.

Continue reading So you want to be a librarian?

A year at work (and a day in the life)

Today is my one year anniversary working at Perkins. I am still amazingly happy here! I thought it might be a nice time to do a day in my work life.

It turned out to be a slightly atypical day, in that I had a cluster of complicated reference questions, and didn’t get a lot else done, where normally I’d spend a bunch of time in the afternoon working on some project or another. But I think it gives a good look at scope of work.

Continue reading A year at work (and a day in the life)

Fluid Choices : Accessibility and Reference

I did a presentation at LibTech 2016 yesterday, which remains my favourite library conference. (Enough that I go to Minnesota in March for it! Ok, so it’s also a good chance to see friends from the 12 years I lived here and drink my favourite root beer and it’s the same week as something else I’d want to come back for.)

My slides are up on my SlideShare, but a few other notes (and I’d love to answer more questions or go home and figure out some solutions if you have questions.)

I also did a post just before coming to Minnesota with a few more notes about Perkins and the Research Library, for anyone curious.

Continue reading Fluid Choices : Accessibility and Reference

Three weeks in

I’m now three weeks into my new job, and I’m loving it more and more every day. There’s a huge amount to learn, but I now feel like I’ve got an idea of all the things I don’t know yet, which helps.

Everyone at Perkins has been tremendously welcoming, both in explaining things and all those things like including me in lunches and conversations. My predecessor (who is retiring and who had her last day on Friday) was extremely thoughtful about transitioning things to me. She’s left me with excellent notes and her entire file of reference answers over the course of 14 years. This being the kind of job where you get things coming up every few years, that’s hugely helpful.

(Fortunately for me, she’s continuing as a remote employee on another Perkins project, so I can email her if something comes up that completely stumps me. This is good, because there’s a vast range of information I’m still getting my head around, and expect I will be for some time to come.)

Read on for more about the actual job.

Continue reading Three weeks in


I mentioned last week that I intended to do a review of Oyster, so here it is, because I know more than a few people who are curious about it.

The basics: It’s been described as like Netflix for books, which is fairly accurate. Their FAQ and help info is on their website.

  • It is currently iPhone and iPod Touch only: they’re working on an iPad version, and then expect to work on other platforms.
  • Cost is $9.95 a month.
  • They have signed agreements with HarperCollins and a number of smaller publishers, they are actively working on others. The current catalog is about 100,000 titles.

It is invitation only, but they are rolling out invites steadily (I got mine about 6 days after requesting one.)

My take: For my reading patterns (more below the cut) this is a worthwhile service for me right now (and I’ll note that I do almost all of my booklength reading on my phone). It may or may not be the right fit for you, or right now.

It is clearly a service in process: there are some things about the interface it’s taken me a while to get used to, and there are some glitches (described below) though none of them have been dealbreakers for me. Obviously, too, whether they have content you want is going to be a good question. (It is probably not the right fit for you if you only read in a couple of specific genres, or read a book or less a month from their catalog, or mostly read very recently released work.)

I’ll also note that I expect to use Oyster the way I use Netflix and Spotify: I take in a bunch of content (and love having the chance to try things out without having to store it – even digital storage takes management!) but I continue to buy things I know I want to keep or have access to even if licensing agreements change, or when I want to make sure the creators get encouraged to make more things like that.

The biggest note I’d make is that books you read are default public (you can mark individual titles private) in their sharing service. I am extremely weird about sharing what I’m reading with other people, and I wish you could default to making things private.

Onward in much more detail

Continue reading Oyster

Handy resources

I’m working on a new project at work, that we’re calling “14 things” which is modeled on the 23 things type projects a number of libraries and schools have used. (Why 14? Because that’s the number of posts that fit in our academic year, at a post every other week, and leaving out vacation breaks.) You can see all the posts in this series over at the work blog.

Our first one is up today, and I wanted to list a few resources I find helpful, but I didn’t want to do it in that post directly (for length and focus reasons.) So instead, you get it here, on my personal blog. (If you find these useful, you might also find my link roundup posts handy. I haven’t been doing them for a while, but there’ll be a new one up tomorrow, September 27th.)

I use Feedly, an RSS aggregator, to keep up with a number of blogs (currently 114, but a number of those update infrequently, and that includes both personal and professional interests.) Some of the professional ones:


  • ProfHacker is a joint blog hosted on the Chronicle of Higher Education that talks about technology and academia. As you can guess from the title, it’s focused on the faculty side, but they have lots of great posts just as applicable for students or staff.
  • David Lee King is a great source of information about the intersection of libraries and technology.
  • Blue Skunk Blog: Doug Johnson is the director of libraries and technology at the Mankato MN school district, and he writes regularly about how you make all this stuff work in K-12 education. (He’s also been blogging for a long time, and will pull out old posts and revisit them.)
  • I’ve been following Personal Knowledge Management, a blog doing something similar to our 14 things project, only about productivity in specific. (It comes from three librarians at Georgia Tech.)
  • Nancy Sims is the copyright librarian at the University of Minnesota, and she has a great blog, with very coherent explanations of copyright and intellectual property issues, especially around Internet use.


I read a variety of library blogs, but particularly recommend Librarian in Black, Swiss Army Librarian, and as good general resources for people who aren’t librarians themselves, but want insight into the issues affecting libraries and the library profession. The Unshelved comic is also often funny and pointed all at once.

General reading:

Longform searches out excellent long-form journalism. Many of the pieces they link are recent, but they’re also sharing older or archived pieces. They post a handful a day, and I’ve found it’s a great way to learn a little about a bunch of interesting things. I also read Metafilter (which has user-posted links to and discussions about various things online and offline) though it can be a little like drinking from a firehose. Their subsite, Ask.Metafilter is one of my starting points for questions where I want anecdotes or personal experience to help with a question. I also just discovered Now I Know which does a daily explanation of some interesting and obscure thing.

Finally, if you are job hunting (or know someone who is), have a job, or just like really practical (and often amusing) conversations about the working world, I highly recommend Ask A Manager – she has great advice, but also an awesome comment section.

LibTech 2013

I have just finished a wonderful two days at LibTech 2013 – it’s always a pleasure to be in what is pretty much my Platonic ideal of a professional conference (500 people is a size where I feel like I can talk to people, and it’s great, I know enough people that I don’t feel totally lost) and the chance to catch up with various Minnesota folks is always fun.

It’s a superbly run conference, they did an awesome job this year with keynote speakers, about whom more when I can be coherent, and it’s always a conference that leaves me excited about my job and what I can do, without making me feel badly that I’m not always on the cutting edge.

This year, I got to present! Thank you to the committee for letting me do so, since my topic was a little off the beaten track: it was Accio Data: Collaborative Projects Using Free Tools, in which I talked about the ways that a project near and dear my heart uses a wide range of collaborative tools to manage a truly massive amount of data (often in ways those tools were not exactly designed for.) People seemed to like it, and I’ve seen at least one tweet complimenting my slides. (Thanks! I work hard to make my slides thematically appropriate and useful!)

You can see my slides, and download my handout (which is a slightly less narrative version of my presentation), and information about Alternity, the project I used as my example, over on its own page at . I’d love to talk more about the stuff in there.

Beyond that, I went to a bunch of really great presentations this year, and I want to do them more justice than I’m going to manage tonight, so I’m going to mull for a day or two and then write them up. I came away with tons of links and tools to explore.

I was at LibTech because I was going to be in Minnesota this week on vacation (it happens to line up with another thing I’d be here for), but it was not actually my official work-sponsored professional development for the year. I’m also going to Computers in Libraries, in Washington DC. If you are reading this, and you’re going, or you know someone who is who might be interested in chatting/lunch/whatever, drop me a note (you can reach me at jen at this domain)

LibTech conference

I’ve just finished the first day of the LibTech2012 conference, an awesome small library technology conference in St. Paul, Minnesota. (And as someone whose hobbies periodically include running fan and community related conferences, it is also running pretty seamlessly from my POV.)

This means I have been madly dumping links in my “Hey, I should share these” files all day (or rather, more than I usually do), and thus it is a good week to reinstate the links post. Coming Friday! Or maybe Thursday night.

(I’ll also have some thoughts on the sessions I’ve been to, but that might take me another couple of days to distill from my notes – I’ve been notetaking on my iPad and a borrowed Logitech keyboard case. The latter is awesome, and solves all my problems with rapid typing on the iPad.)

Minnesota is not as gorgeous as Maine (Maine had a wetter winter, so our grass is not totally brown). But you can’t beat 70 and sunny in March for weather, really. And I’m having a lovely time visiting friends before and after the conference, too.

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

More about my job and a day in the life

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